Wednesday, 19 June 2019

High Pride

In a past article I’ve written about the oldest Pride events on each continent, the most northerly and southerly, and the biggest and smallest. What I haven’t done is look at which Pride event has taken place at the highest altitude. That’s not to be confused with the highest places the Rainbow Pride flag has flown. It may surprise you to learn that a dozen Pride marches have taken place at altitudes that are above the highest point in Australia.

Most Prides that take place in major cities do so at, or close to, sea level. The reason is simple – the original settlements of these cities, most of them current capital cities, were established on the coast or next to major rivers. So you won’t see New York, London, Paris, Rio de Janeiro or San Francisco in the list below.

When deciding what constitutes a Pride event, whether it uses that name or not, is largely subjective. This is my personal definition. A Pride event should be an open public event organised by a designated committee. It should be aimed at (but not restricted to) the lgbt community to celebrate and commemorate sexual and gender diversity and to highlight lgbt rights. It takes place on a specific date in a specific public location. Any profits should go primarily to lgbt projects or charities. Pride events named or publicised to highlight specific groups within the community (e.g. Bisexual Pride, Black Pride, Transgender Pride, Internet Pride) are not included (I’ll try to cover them next year). Protest marches, political rallies and gatherings arranged in response to an event (e.g. equal marriage rallies, Orlando shootings vigils, protests outside government buildings, embassies and commercial businesses) are not included. Pride events I considered for this list had a central lgbt rights element to them, a parade or march, speeches from activists, and community celebrations of diversity, or at least two of these criteria. Finally, events such as Gay Ski Week, Disney Gay Days, gay cruises, etc. are not included because of their more commercial origins, despite fulfilling several of the listed criteria (again, I’ll try to look at these events in more detail next year).

So, where is the highest Pride? The most obvious place to look is in the Himalayan nations, but because most of the mountain towns and settlements are located in homophobic nations there’s little chance of finding any public Pride events there. However, if we look at the second highest mountain range, the Andes, we hit the jackpot.

To give you an idea of how high these cities are the International Society for Mountain Medicine defines “high altitude” as any location between 1,500 and 3,500 meters (about 5,000 and 11,500 feet) above sea level. They call any location between 3,500 and 5,000 meters (11,500 and 18,000 feet) as “very high altitude”. The top 4 cities that host an annual Pride are all within the “very high altitude” levels and are all in Bolivia.

One thing Bolivia is famous for is for having the highest capital city in the world, La Paz, at an elevation of 3,650 metres (11,980 feet) above sea level. But La Paz is actually the lowest of the top 4 High Pride cities.

Below is an illustration showing the Top 20 Pride Cities that I have been able to identify. Follow the city name down, or up, to the first triangle in that column. The triangle represents the general altitude of the city. As it happens the Top 20 all take place over 2,000 metres above sea level (and so is No. 21 – Flagstaff Pride, USA, not on the chart or list below). For exact details see the table underneath.

Below is the list of the top 20 highest Pride cities with altitudes, and the name and date (that I can find online) of the most recent or future Pride held there. The heights are approximate because various cities have varying altitudes from place to place, even my local Pride march in Nottingham ends about 30 metres higher than the start. As more research and more Prides are held in the coming years the list will undoubtedly change.

Even though I said above that I wouldn’t include any Gay Ski Weeks you may be interested to know which of them is the highest, so you can get some idea of how they might fit into the High Pride table. The highest Gay Ski Week identified so far is Breck Pride in Breckenridge, Colorado, USA, at an altitude of 2,926 meters above sea level. This would place it between Cusco, Peru, and Toluca, Mexico, in the above list. This may seem unusual, but snow levels are governed by geography and environment as well as altitude. Aspen, the most famous Gay Ski Week, takes place at an altitude of 2,438 meters, putting it between 8th and 9th place.

I cannot leave the subject of Pride in South America without mentioning Cusco again. Because Cusco is a very popular tourist destination with the iconic Machu Picchu fortress as its star attraction a few miles away visitors are often confused by the local city flag (below). As you can see it is a rainbow flag, and many visitors have assumed it is the Rainbow Pride flag first adopted by the San Francisco gay community in 1979 (based on Gilbert Baker’s original 8-stripe flag of 1978). This is not the case. The Cusco flag predates Baker’s rainbow flag by several years. It had been used unofficially as a symbol of the local Inca culture and was formally adopted in 1978.

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